By Jeremy Balan
Leading up to the City’s most anticipated non-league football matchup of the season, the attitudes on the respective high school campuses could not be farther apart.
At Archbishop Riordan High School, where the Crusaders will host defending Academic Athletic Association champion Mission on Saturday, optimism is in high quantity.
Riordan is 2-0 and with a win over the Bears, would complete its first unbeaten non-league season since 2003 and would equal the Crusaders’ win total of the past three seasons combined.
“I’m really impressed with the team chemistry,” said Riordan head coach Richard Sweeney. “The kids have figured out that this is a team game. We’re playing an exciting brand of football right now, and with two local teams, it should be a great experience.”
At Mission, the sentiment is far from warm and fuzzy.
The Bears followed an impressive season-opening win over Hercules with a lopsided loss to Menlo last week. In the Menlo loss, senior running back Armani McFarland (a highly touted transfer from Riordan) injured his ankle and is questionable to play against his former school.
“I feel like we’re spinning our wheels a little bit and not really getting anything accomplished,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “Riordan is a good football team and they do everything well. They are similar to Menlo. If we put it all together, we can compete, but my team needs to decide to put it all together.”
One of the positives for the Bears has been the play of senior Antoine Porter, who has thrived at quarterback.
Porter has thrown for 428 yards, ran for 176 and has accounted for a combined eight touchdowns in the first two games.
“He’s really stepped up as a leader,” Albano said. “I’m waiting for other people to step up and no one has done that yet. He is the only one. He knows where he wants to go.”
Riordan’s signal-caller isn’t too shabby either.
Junior Zach Masoli hasn’t been asked to throw a ton (he has passed for 293 yards on 17-of-34 passing in two games), but he connected for five touchdowns last week against St. Mary’s and had two scores through the air against Lincoln.
Masoli hasn’t needed to shoulder a major load, unlike Porter, due to the emergence of senior running back Tre’ Gunter, who has 192 yards on just 25 carries this season.
“I don’t now what their plan is for Zach, but I think we’re pretty multifaceted,” Sweeney said. “It may be hard for them to concentrate on one aspect.”
The performance of both quarterbacks, combined with a pair of defenses that have been susceptible to allowing high passing yardage, could also indicate shootout.
Mission allowed Menlo’s pair of quarterbacks to throw for 241 yards and four touchdowns last week, and Riordan allowed St. Mary’s quarterback Kevin Flemer to throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
“We have to shore up that side of the football,” Sweeney said. “We were exposed in the passing game last week.”
Galileo @ De Anza (Richmond), 7 p.m.
The Lions (1-0-1) are undefeated, but may have the weakest non-league schedule in the City, which includes the Dons (1-1). De Anza went 2-7 last season, but prior to 2011, had three straight winless seasons.
Sacred Heart Cathedral @ Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland), 7 p.m.
The Irish (1-1) faced some harsh realities with a 28-7 loss to Campolindo last week and again will jump into a tough matchup against a solid East Bay squad. The Dragons (2-1) went 9-3 last season and were knocked out by Campolindo in the second round of the North Coast Section Division III playoffs.
Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) @ St. Ignatius, 1 p.m.
The Wildcats (1-1) hit the road for the first two weeks of the season and will host the Bears (1-1) in their home opener. St. Ignatius beat Menlo-Atherton 24-7 last season, but the Bears finished the year with a 9-3 record and fell to Serra in the Central Coast Section Division I championship game.
Washington @ Montgomery (Santa Rosa), 1:30 p.m.
It was a late addition, but the Eagles (0-1) squeezed in the Vikings (0-2) into one of the holes in their schedule. After their season-opening loss to El Camino last week, the Eagles will need to eliminate mistakes to beat Montgomery on the road.
Jefferson (Daly City) @ Balboa, 2 p.m.
After two losses to start the season, the Bucs (0-2) will have an opportunity to end their non-league schedule on a high note. The Indians (0-2) went 2-7 last season have lost their first two games of the year by a combined score of 84-6.
Lincoln @ El Camino (South San Francisco), 2 p.m.
The Mustangs (1-1) impressed with a double-digit win over Hillsdale last week and will get a true gauge of where they stand in the AAA when they take on the Colts (1-1). El Camino’s defense roughed up Washington last week and will face another run-heavy attack in Lincoln.
Marshall vs. Mission San Jose (Fremont) @ Tak Fudenna Stadium (Fremont), 7 p.m.
The Phoenix (0-2) have had anything but a smooth start, but will have the spotlight all to themselves on Saturday night in Fremont. The Warriors (0-2) have lost ten straight games, dating back to last year’s non-league slate.